“Can you feel that?” one dad panned as he turned his face towards the strange warm orb in the sky.
Parksville’s boys of summer were all business up at Inouye/Wallace Field in Parksville last Saturday when they hosted the Victoria Mariners for two BC Premier Baseball League (BCPBL) pre-season scrimmage games.
The Royals were game, but the visitors brought experience.
“We’re a young team to begin with — we’ve only got five seniors (players in Grade 12) on our roster, four of which were missing Saturday,” Royals’ skipper Dave Wallace said after.
Rounding out the Quality Foods crew on the weekend were three Grade 9s, “who played very well for us,” including Errington’s Liam Ballance along with former Junior Royals now playing for the North Island Bantam Blizzard, Noah Badovinac (Port Alberni) and Chris Vlaj (Campbell River), younger brother of Senior Royal Rob Vlaj.
Ballance, at third base, is the only Grade 9-age player selected to play for the Royals full time this year, and the other two may also see playing time with the older club.
“We’ve got our work cut out for us — we have a lot of improving to do,” Wallace said frankly, adding, “we’re young and inexperienced and we’ll be in a real battle this year, but the enthusiasm is definitely there, and we’ll be better in a month than we are today …”
Leading the way on Saturday and working out of the stretch for the first time this season was returning senior pitcher Bryan Pawlina from Courtenay.
A crafty right hander with some pop on his pitches, this is Pawlina’s fourth year wearing the Royal purple, and he was clearly in his element Saturday, throwing strikes, laughing and joking with his teammates.
“It’s still early, but he looked good on Saturday,” said Wallace, adding Pawlina will be counted on along with celebrated Junior National baseball team member Clayton Isherwood “as the leaders of our pitching staff.”
“Our strength, our experience, is our pitching,” said Wallace.
The coach said his three senior pitchers (Liam Joyce from Duncan the other), “all pitched a lot last year, and will be counted on even more this year.”
On Sunday, the Royals travelled to Victoria for an up-tempo nine-inning scrimmage against the Eagles.
“Saturday was outstanding — it got up to 13,” Wallace said of the weather, adding, “that was the best baseball-day of the year weather-wise by far.”
The Royals travel to Kamloops this weekend for the annual 12-team Best of the West tournament featuring teams from B.C. and Alberta. The Royals will play at least four games at the annual kickstart to the season.
The Royals open the BCPBL regular season in Victoria on Easter weekend, and play their home-opener Saturday, April 14 against the Whalley Chiefs.
Opening pitch of the double header is 12:15 p.m.